LOS ANGELES — A three-foot tall man — four with the Mohawk — in a sequined jacket teeters around the floor of the Grand Olympic Auditorium on platform heels, gleefully swigging from a red plastic gasoline can.
Nearby, three female acrobats in elaborate-yet-barely-there costumes (think Cirque du Soleil staffed by Suicide Girls) writhe playfully and grind in time to the drumbeats pumping through the house PA system. Soon, three hulking figures in coveralls and demonic clown masks lurch onto the floor, inching toward the others who have now assembled in front of a makeshift photography studio. It's fitting that a towering red and white big top looms behind them, but the ringmasters have yet to arrive. You see, Tommy Lee is busy hurling his drumsticks one at a time into the ground and watching as they either shatter or soar back up in the air.
"Look at our world, man," bassist Nikki Sixx declares to no one in particular, surveying the mayhem that the band has dubbed "The Rock and Roll Circus" (with no apologies to the Rolling Stones ... or to anyone, for that matter).
Yes, Mötley Crüe are back, and with them comes the return of the big, loud rock spectacle. After years of strife, bitterness and wanton excess (and that was before their split six years ago), the band behind "The Dirt" has reassembled, reconciled and returned to the road for an unlikely reunion that kicked off Thursday night in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (see "Original Lineup Of Motley Crue Reuniting For World Tour"). As the band worked the kinks out of that show last week in L.A. and unveiled the cast of characters that will help them this time around, it was apparent that they were crunk before it was cool, and they hadn't planned to tone things down one bit.
"It's a lot to try to top ourselves," Sixx said. "When we sit down and start doing the tour, we're like, 'What do we do to top ourselves?' Not only that, we change our sound, we change our look, we change the perception of what rock and roll is every single time."
From leather and studs to sequins and spandex to denim and leather (again, some things never go out of style) the Crüe brought a new look each time they rolled through town during their heyday, and consistently tried to one-up their past stage shows (as anyone who ever saw Tommy Lee play a drumkit that elevated and whirled 360 degrees in the air like that giant spinning pirate ship at your local carnival can attest).
"Tommy is doing the craziest things he's ever done," Vince Neil said of the new tour. "We're playing longer than we've ever played, more songs than we've ever played. This is the biggest thing we've ever done ... ever."
"It's a freak show," Sixx summarized.
Some might suggest that's an appropriate way to label the band as well, given the decades of dysfunction that precede the tour. But it's all smiles as the band preps for the tour, with the bulk of the ribbing being good-natured. Neil stealthily rests a photographer's test shot on the top of Sixx's hat while the bassist chats with one of the show's acrobats, Tommy slips one of the clown's devil horns up his nose just before the shoot and Nikki crashes into Mick and Tommy, interrupting their interview.
"You see these guys, man?" Lee said, in a mock plea for sympathy and help.
The reunited and still somewhat chummy Crüe hope to keep details of the tour under wraps, but ticketholders can expect fire, acrobatics, claymation and a departure from most of the rock offerings that have snaked across the country of late.
"Everything you've seen in the last 15 years in the music business — don't expect that," Sixx promised. "It's a whole different animal. The Crüe's back."